Battle of Hodeidah is crucial for regional security

The campaign in Yemen has shown there are Arab forces ready to fight — however long it takes — Iran’s expansionist project.
Sunday 24/06/2018
Sudanese soldiers fighting alongside Yemen’s pro-government forces gather on the side of a road near Al-Jah, about 50km south-west of Hodeidah, on June 22. (AFP)
Moment of truth. Sudanese soldiers fighting alongside Yemen’s pro-government forces gather on the side of a road near Al-Jah, about 50km south-west of Hodeidah, on June 22. (AFP)

Iran and its allies and agents are in for a big disappointment in Yemen. Hodeidah will be taken from the Houthis. The liberation of the airport by forces operating under the banner of “legitimacy” is just another step on the way to complete liberation of the city and its strategic Red Sea port.

Liberating Hodeidah is part of a strategic vision for regional security, which includes securing both coasts in the Horn of Africa. That means securing Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia as well.

The Houthis are feigning ignorance of the fact that they are a foreign body everywhere in Yemen, even in Sana’a, and are desperately defending the port.

The Houthis owe their presence in Sana’a to so-called “fringe tribes,” in whom they invested a lot. These are tribes who, for a price, switch their allegiance. In other words, they can be leased. I wonder when the Houthi lease will expire. I guess it depends on the money made available to the Houthis by their backers.

Iran is not the only “investor” in the Houthis. There are Arab powers that have scores to settle with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. These shadowy powers feed the fringe tribes enough money to buy their allegiance to the Houthis.

On September, 21, 2014, the investment in the rebel tribes paid off. The Houthis took Sana’a following a mistake by Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who failed to heed former President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s advice of stopping the Houthis in Amran governorate.

On December 4, 2017, Saleh paid with his own life the price of siding with the Houthis. They turned on him after they used him in a temporary and purely formal alliance.

Hodeidah port is of vital importance to the Houthis. It brings them tonnes of money in taxes and fees. It is the main entry point for the missiles and weapons smuggled from Iran.

With the port under their control, the Houthis are a threat to international shipping in the Red Sea. With Hodeidah port freed from their grip, the Houthis will have only a handful of minor ports but those aren’t large enough to smuggle in heavy artillery. They will continue to use land routes for smuggling operations but nothing will replace Hodeidah.

Those who claim Hodeidah will never be given up by the Houthis had better recall that Aden and its port and Mocha and its port used to be held by the Houthis. They were liberated and so was Mukalla.

There are serious forces fighting on the ground. The Giants Brigade and other groups led by former Defence Minister Haitham Qasim Taher are doing a tremendous job. They have been joined by former Republican Guard leader Brigadier-General Tariq Mohammed Abdullah Saleh, nephew of Ali Abdullah Saleh. Tariq Saleh is in the thick of the battle even though the Houthis are holding his brother and nephew hostage, as well as two of Ali Abdullah Saleh’s sons and several Saleh family members.

Operation Decisive Storm, launched by Arab coalition forces to prevent Yemen from becoming an Iranian colony, was a wise move. Most of the objectives of the campaign have been achieved and the remaining ones will soon be accomplished, especially if certain pitfalls can be avoided.

Hitting civilian targets by mistake is one such pitfall and a potential lack of efficiency on the part of the coalition forces is another. For example, it is not clear why the coalition’s progress along the coast was not matched by a similar one inland towards Sana’a. Furthermore, the situation in Taiz remains unsettled.

Does the problem reside with the “legitimacy” front and Hadi or is it somewhere else? Could it be with Al-Islah party, meaning the Muslim Brotherhood and its schemes?

The moment of truth in Hodeidah is coming. It won’t be tomorrow or the day after but every child in Yemen knows that the Houthis are not welcome in Hodeidah. The inhabitants, however, are peaceful people and won’t fight until further progress by the “legitimacy” forces is accomplished.

The campaign in Yemen has shown there are Arab forces ready to fight — however long it takes — Iran’s expansionist project, which aims to disintegrate the Arab world by igniting sectarian strife everywhere.

To the question: “Is there someone who will stop the Iranian project?” the answer is a resounding “YES.” The battle of Hodeidah is not just a well-planned campaign but part of a strategy to secure the Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula, including the Horn of Africa, from Iranian threats.

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